With only two more days until Christmas, we hope you get to take time to enjoy the wonderful light displays up all over the nation. Here are a few more in-depth suggestions to help you capture them which we didn’t cover in part one.
Suit up appropriately!
Seriously—it gets cold out there. Grab a fuzzy hat and a nice pair of photographer’s gloves and keep all your appendages.
If you’re going to be walking around a lot, a nice pair of headphones might not be a bad idea, either. Keep the mood festive and stay safe with bone conduction headphones that leave your ears open for road noise. (I’m wearing a pair right now! They’re awesome.)
Use a narrow aperture
It may seem counter-intuitive to use a narrower aperture for night-time photography, but (with the right lens) the starry-light effect that comes out can be stunning. You can also create this effect with star filters, available with a variety of different point numbers.
Deployed intentionally, they can add a surreal look, like these blasts of emphasis next to Santa & his friend:
Of course, narrowing your aperture at night means that you absolutely MUST…
Pick the right tripod
We mentioned using a tripod in part one, which stands to reason: the lights are going to look their best in the dark, and any attempt at night photography succeeds or fails depending largely on stability! The question remains, however, as to which one you ought to bring. We’ve discussed the category in-depth before, but here are three suggestions specifically for capturing Christmas lights.
Available in a variety of sizes depending on your camera’s weight, the GorillaPod is the ultimate adaptable companion. This guy is perfect for unusual perspectives (down low, wrapped around a tree, etc.), and works wonderfully if you want something you can quickly pop onto the hood or roof of your car at a stop without having to set up a full-size tripod every time.
The BeFree is a superbly-designed travel tripod meant to provide the easiest possible setup/breakdown without compromising on adaptability and steadiness. One of the legs is rubberized, too: a must for any tripod being used in cold weather!
Monopods are much more portable (ideal for long walks through a neighborhood, the zoo, and so on), but aren’t as stable as tripods. This monopod splits the difference with tiny legs on the bottom to give you that extra boost when you need it!
To immediately backpedal, it’s also worth remembering that moving the camera or yourself during an exposure can create unique artistic effects, as well. Try zooming your lens or turning the camera while the shutter is open.
Add your own light
Sometimes, the best thing to enhance pictures of light is… more light! Grab additional light sources and get creative.
For pure creativity, it’s hard to beat a light wand with a full range of RGB colors. With a very narrow aperture and a not-overwhelming display, you could get some pretty wild light painting done.
If portability is more important to you, this tiny, powerful LED light would be right up your street. With a variety colorful, easy-to-use filters available and super easy to mount as needed (maybe with another GorillaPod!), the LitraTorch is ideal for directing attention to certain subjects or adding a colorful flourish to your photos.
Take advantage of public displays
Your city (or one near you) probably spends a decent sum of money on creating beautiful public displays. Lots of publicly-accessible attractions do, too. (For my fellow Denverites, did you know we were crowned Christmas Capitol of the world back in the ’20s? We still look pretty good!) Don’t let it go to waste! Go visit your zoo, botanic gardens, large parks… even the Capitol gets festive every year.
Finally, as any writer might know, sometimes a character is much more important than the setting or the plot. Involve people or focus on artificial characters in your shot, or find perspectives that send your mind a-wandering.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. It’s a little darker than I’d like, but I can’t help but love the shot I got of an adorned living tree relaxing with its artificial friend.
Bonus tip: use your photos!
After you’ve invested your time, energy, and heart in bringing art into the world, don’t just let it founder in hard drive purgatory. Bring your best shots in to a Mike’s Camera near you, and we’ll help you find the perfect way to share and display your creations.